|What is Culture?|
My first blogs of 2011 will be about how to create a successful national media strategy. You will be able to apply them anywhere.
A national media strategy is about how a government can help its media industries to flourish, that is perform somewhere near their potential.
I put most emphasis on the global or international dimension, and start with the core elements of a media strategy, that is, the elements of human behaviour which media content addresses.
Nearly everyone else discussing media strategy simply skips this phase and concentrates in incentives or financial tools. We may well end up there, but this first stage is essential. You can't have a media strategy without a framing theory of culture and and the human need for culture.
This series of postings will end with diagnostic questions, designed to identify the position you start from and what strategic options are open to your particular media industry. You will then be able to assess where you think your industry can best add value.
If you were a food manufacturer or a nation that relied heavily on food exports, you would accept the need to be up to speed with the best knowledge: new scientific research on cultivation, new technology, the nutritional value of your foods, changing demand around the world. You might also want to define and promote a brand – like Belgium is famous for chocolates.
Ultimately, as a food exporting nation, you are addressing a universal need: humans have to eat. Hunger – and the pleasure we get from food – are two of the ways nature has found to make us pay attention to that need.
|The Cultural Paradigm|
"Culture" is often misused to mean "Arts".
A few weeks back, I gave you a current view from the two scientists on the root instinct that drives human culture: an instinct to copy others. (The authors of this work explain it as “fast and frugal learning”: the way you pick up the basic rules of life).
As in the Johnson and Scholes diagram, entertainment media are only one part of a culture, but they are important because moral issues and changing attitudes are often rehearsed and explored in stories.
Along with News and Sport, stories, in the form of books, TV and films, are the most widely traded media genre.
If a culture is driven by a basic need to selectively copy others (some models are more relevant or useful than others), why are some stories better than others?
In fact, stories and storytelling satisfy a cocktail of instinctive needs.
Why, for a start, do some people want to “entertain”? Actually we all do, because we all want to be noticed. It’s a signal of our worth. Artists are people who acquire special skills designed to get lots of attention from others.
The different arts in term work by exciting different pleasures. (Pleasure, remember, is nature’s way of getting us to do what it wants).
Some think the visual arts excite our senses by using colours that echo ripe fruit or healthy foliage. (OK, there may be other items in the mix….)
Humans are adept at tracking, interpreting others’ motives and behaviour. It is a basic requirement for living in groups and forming alliances. In a non-literate society, i.e. for most of our life as a species, someone narrating an adventure – how he or she outwitted an enemy, for instance, -- is useful knowledge, behavioural tips for crisis management.
So that is my starting point: culture is useful. More on the basic uses of culture next week.